Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pray Now

I shared on my Facebook page today how deeply my heart is affected by the suffering of the people of Aleppo.  I can't get them out of my mind.  And, with that comes a certain sense of helplessness.  How can I, here in my little corner of the U.S. make any difference to the people who are facing horror, death, & destruction on the a daily basis?

I was praying this morning...pouring out my heart....but still feeling somewhat inadequate.  I went on about my morning - getting ready to straighten up the house & go grocery shopping....still feeling there was something more.

And then, this.  I have to believe this is a call to action to us who call ourselves believers........

No more standing around wringing our hands, "What shall I do?  What CAN I do?"  
We are servants of the Most High God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Great I Am.  
Not just any servants - but those who have been adopted as children  into his Kingdom.  
Sons & Daughters - fall to your knees in knowing that your strength & power resides in Him.  And, that in lifting our voices, our hearts, our prayers & petitions the spiritual atmosphere literally changes!
The enemy would have us believe prayer is nothing more than good wishes or a nice sentiment.  Rebuke that lie!  Our prayers are so powerful!  They are our spiritual arsenal that we need to unleash now.
Pray alone.  Pray together.  Pray out loud.  Pray silently.  Pray in your car, in your shower, in your beds.  Pray while baking.  Pray while creating.  Pray while waiting in line.  Pray often.  Pray fervently.  Each prayer is drawing back a bowstring and releasing God's arrows of love & justice swift and sure into a dying and dark world.  Pray unceasingly.  Pray now!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Praying Over Our Children

I have been having a series of dreams lately in which my children are in danger.  Whether it's wild animals, out of control vehicles, or deep waters I keep having these dreams night after night.

I could allow these dreams to fill me with fear.  But I have banished fear from my life & I won't give it a foothold again.  Instead, I will take these dreams as a sign that now, more than ever, I need to pray for my children.

Actually I believe that all parents are being called to action in praying over their children.  The enemy wants nothing more than to prevent us from raising this generation to honor God.  And, so we need to all the more firmly stand our ground & cover our children in fervent prayer.

Here are two verses I was reading this morning.  They were Paul's prayers for the Colossians and the Philippians.  But, I am claiming them today as prayers for my children.

Colossians 1: 9-11
" For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so you may have great endurance and patience."

Philippians 1:9
"And this is my prayer; that you love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God."

In addition we can be reassured of God's faithfulness in protecting & strengthening our children......

2 Thessalonians 3:3
"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."
Deuteronomy 31:6
"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Healthy Me

Well, I'm thankful to say that my knee is feeling so much better.  I guess I can chalk up last week's pain to having strained it.  I was so worried that I had torn something.  But, now I'm really appreciating how important healthy knees are!

In fact, I'm appreciating how important healthy bodies are.  I mentioned in my previous post that I had a complete blood workup done after my last physical.  I also recently had my mammogram.  And, the good news is that all those results came back great.  I am healthy overall.  But, what I've also realized is that if I want to STAY healthy...and if I truly want to THRIVE...then I need to take better care of myself.

What a gift our health is.  And frankly I have been treating that gift very poorly & taking it for granted.  I know that this is a result of many, many deeply ingrained bad habits.  And, changing these habits & patterns is going to mean changing my mindset.

Of course, I've made that realization before and have tried before and have found myself back in this same spot again of NEEDING to make changes.  But, so help me.  I will keep trying and keep working at this.  I will not give up.

I was recently reading  Eating for Life by Joel Fuhrman.  In it he talked about how our neural pathways are essentially formed by repeating the same behavior over & over.  They become the 'easy route' in our brain.  Feeling depressed or bored?  Well, if the repeated behavior has been to eat something unhealthy for a quick boost, then that becomes our brain's go-to each time we feel that way.

We CAN create new paths.  But, they take time.  As I was reading that section, the visual image I got is of when my boys go sledding in deep snow.  The first pass or two, they don't get very far as they are plowing through that snow & trying to create that path.  But, as they keep going again & again their path goes farther & easier until they are flying down that path.

And that's where the different mindset comes in.  I have always wanted the path to be clear & easy from the start.  I wanted to fly down the hill & didn't want the hard work of pushing away the snow in the way.  When I hit those barriers it's been so much easier to pick up my sled & go back to those easier bad habit pathways.  So, basically I need to keep pushing through even when it feels like to much work.

Anyway, I'm hoping to start that new path and not give up.  I already feel better because I've been getting a lot more sleep this last week.  It started out that I was going to bed earlier because my knee hurt & I was exhausted from hobbling around on it & I knew I needed to rest it.  But, now, 8:30 or 9 rolls around & I feel like going to bed.  And, I'm waking up earlier.  But, I'm also waking up rested.  I haven't felt rested in a very long time.

The other good part about going to bed earlier is that it eliminates the chance for night-time snacking.  Night time snacking has been one of my biggest downfalls.  I think not eating before bed probably also contributes to a better sleep.

I'm still weighing what changes I want to take in regard to my diet.  I've done a vegan fast before & it's really good for feeling better & losing weight.  I also don't find it sustainable over a long period of time.  I definitely want to cut back on empty carbs, sugars, and animal products & beef up on fruits & veggies.  I also need to start incorporating exercise.

For now, step by step, inch by inch I'm going to create my new pathway.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving and More.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I have sorely neglected my blog.  But, I need an outlet for writing down my thoughts again.  And, so I'm coming back to my old friend to do just that.

First of all, I hope you all have a very blessed Thanksgiving.  I'm enjoying a quiet moment right now.  My children have disappeared down the hill to Grandma & Grandpa's house to 'help' get things ready for dinner.  I'm sitting on the couch resting my knee because I somehow hurt myself yesterday & I'm hobbling around in pain.  I need to get started on the food that I'm making soon.  But, right now I'm just having a moment or two to myself.

I am definitely feeling blessed.  I've been so aware of how fortunate I am to have my family, our health, our home & security.  I'm keenly aware of how blessed we are to be living in relative peace & lack of turmoil and in a country where we have our freedom.

I've also been saddened by things going on in the world around me.  Close to me there are friends whose loved ones are fighting for their lives against cancer.  There are friends & family who are struggling in their marriages or other relationships.  There's a family member who desperately wants children of her own someday, but for the sake of her health, may have to make the decision to have a hysterectomy.

And, when I look at the world around me there are wars & rumors of wars, as well as so much conflict & tension within our own country.  And this past election seemed to bring out the worst in everyone.  There are tragedies that we hear about on the news.  This week is was a school bus crash that killed 5 precious children and seriously injured many more.

It's all so heavy sometimes.  I feel things deeply.  And, it's just a lot.  I feel so helpless in the face of so much sadness & suffering.  I don't know what difference I can make.

I know that it starts at ground level.  It starts with how I interact with people each day - my husband & children, friends, even strangers at the grocery store.  And yet, even there I fail often.

It's hard to feel a lack of control over circumstances.

So where am I headed with all this?  Well, I guess I've been feeling challenged to take control of & be a good steward of the things that I am able to.  I've been challenged to exercise self-control.  So, for me this would boil down to two major areas - My home and my health.

Those might not seem like big things in the scope of all that I listed above.  But, these are two areas that if they are disjointed or chaotic it seems to spill over into the rest of life & the attitudes and feelings that I have regarding many things.

My home:  We are messies.  With four boys & a husband who are all outdoorsy, hands-on kinds of guys...who value function over reflects in the very lived in state of our home.  But, I also struggle to keep up with things that need done in our home.  I dislike cleaning & it can all seem very overwhelming.  So, I just watch the mess grow & grow until I can't stand it & try to do a whirlwind of straightening up.

It's not a good cycle.  And, it's one that we can change.  I need to better involve my children in the upkeep of our home.  And, I need to dig in to the tasks that need done & tackle them one by one.

My health:  I had a physical recently.  I wanted to talk to the doctor about pain in my knee as well as my weight gain & exhaustion.  She ordered some bloodwork and an xray of my knee to check for arthritis.  The good news is that all of my blood work came back very good.  So, I am healthy & there aren't any contributing factors to my weight gain.  The xray showed some bone spurs but nothing overly concerning.

So what does that mean?   Pretty much what I already knew.  I need to take better care of myself.  I have nothing to blame my weight gain on other than my poor eating habits & lack of exercise.  But, here's the other thing...if I continue on this path I can't continue to count on having good health.  So, it's time to get myself back on track...for real.

Taking control of my home & my health.  That's my goal.  And, I will be using my blog again to help document my progress.  Here we go!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Do You Know?

Do you know that Jesus loves you?

Not just as an oft-repeated religious saying.  Not just as some pleasant, generic phrase with no power.

He loves you!  Profoundly.  Deeply.

In a soul altering way.

His eye is upon you.  He sees you.  He knows you.

He wants you to experience his presence & truly know Him.

All pretenses, all striving is shattered.

Yet we put His name on bumper stickers.  We water down what is the greatest Truth of all time.  That Jesus loves you.

He longs for you to draw near to Him.  He offers life.  Abundant, full, overflowing life!

He offers water that will quench your thirst.

The fire of longing that drives you to seek comfort in things and in people....that longing can only be fulfilled in Jesus.

He loves you.  He knows you.  You are His.  He knew you before time began.

And He will not stop pursuing you.

Nothing you do, nothing you say, nothing can take away His love for you.

To some He was just a good teacher.  To some - a myth.  'What does this Jesus offer that we can't find elsewhere?'

The Truth is - He offers EVERYTHING.  He offers Himself.  It is done.  No other 'god' has sacrificed himself for the love of humanity.... to remove the separation between us & have relationship with us.

There is no writing Him off as a nice guy.  There is no shelving Him with the story books.

Lives are changed.  Hearts are released at a glance.  Bodies healed with a touch.  Only One has this Power.

There is Power in the name of Jesus.

Demons shudder at the thought of His name.  (James 2:19)

The same One that spoke life into the vast nothingness before time is the One who yearns to be near you.

His breath is in each of us - whether we recognize it or not.  (Job 33:4)

He has set eternity in our hearts.  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

He knows you.  Every ache.  Every dream.  Every part of yourself that you can't even express.  He knows.

And He loves you.

Do you know that Jesus loves you?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Most Powerful Weapon

I jotted this down in my notebook a couple weeks ago when I was reflecting on how much anger there is surrounding us today - even among the Christian community...
"The most powerful weapon we have is not our anger or our indignation - but our love".
I had a confirmation of that this morning. John had breakfast with a group of local businessmen. One of them was the defense lawyer for one of the men who killed Ms. Mathewson (my son's teacher). As soon as John told me that I felt emotion rising in me. How could anyone defend someone like that?
But John went one to say that this lawyer is a Christian, and even though he works with people who are guilty of what they are accused, they still need a lawyer. And, he sees this as an opportunity to minister Christ's love to even the most wretched among us.
I asked John if he had said anything about Ms. Mathewson's case....knowing that he is bound to certain confidentiality.
But apparently the lawyer did say this man that he had to stand beside in court was an extremely hardened individual. It wasn't until Ms. Mathewson's family & friends were given the opportunity to speak to him - and instead of anger they showered him with Christ's love & forgiveness - did he begin to crack.
Love IS more powerful than anger. Forgiveness IS more powerful than indignation. I don't exactly know how to put that into practice in my daily life. When we are hurt & wronged - anger is our go to response. It seems the natural response. The response we have a right to. I can't imagine standing in front of the killer of a loved one, especially a killer who showed absolutely no remorse, and react with love & forgiveness instead of hate. I can't imagine it, because it is humanly impossible. But it is only through Christ who strengthens me that such love is possible. Am I seeking him in the little things? In the small offenses? When I feel misunderstood by my husband or unappreciated by my children. When someone says something to me that hurts my feelings. Goodness, am I able to insert love & forgiveness in place of the go to response of anger when someone cuts me off while I'm driving? I know I fail repeatedly at this. We all do. But, I'm learning that putting on the mind of Christ is not something that just automatically comes when we become a Christian. It's an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts & minds. It takes practice and perseverance....and failure. But, we have new mercies every morning to keep going, to keep learning, and growing.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Open Doors

I felt this impressed upon my heart this morning as I was praying.

I was led to this scripture in Revelation 3: 7,8
"These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.  What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts not one can open.  I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word & have not denied my name"

I felt like God was saying that He is opening new doors across our country even now in this moment
 - Doors of opportunity for change
 - Doors of hearts & minds that have previously been closed
 - Doors of ears - that people might hear God's Word & have understanding of it for the first time

I felt like God was saying that He is shutting doors to the enemy.  Where the enemy previously had inroads and paths for deception and his own influence....God is shutting them.  And, the enemy can not get through.  His efforts will be frustrated.  God is blocking his way.

And, I was encouraged by the reminder that he knows we have little strength - but he is renewing his people with increased boldness and energy.  He is planting a zeal for His Word and His Truth and a heart for those around us who are living in darkness.  Where there has been apathy & discouragement, he is giving supernatural strength & motivation.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Discovering a purpose

So it's going to get a little deep here.
But, I had a moment today. Can I share?
I've been in a major funk this week...walking about in a fog, depressed for no real reason. Maybe it's the winter blahs, maybe it's hormones. Who knows.

Anyway, I have a lot of people who stop at my house to pick up items they are buying. Some of them are here & gone. Others end up chatting a bit. Actually quite a few end up chatting a bit.
A lady who stopped this afternoon told me her husband died of brain cancer 2 years ago. I guess he'd been in the hospital for a while & then she brought him home to live out the rest of his days. Her living room became his room...his hospital bed, medical equipment, etc.

The furniture they'd originally had she had just put out along the side of the road for free to make room for her husband. She didn't have the time or energy to do anything else with it.

Now, that he's gone she's slowly rebuilding her living room...making it a new space with new things. The coffee table she bought from me will be one of those things.

And, it struck me after she left what a gift I've been given. Yes, I love vintage things - finding and selling treasures. But, the greatest part? The people. Even though I'm an introvert, I love hearing people's stories. I love listening and figuring out who they are. Why they think and feel the way they do. What they've experienced.

A bit of light broke through the fog I've been walking in. You see, I've been feeling purposeless, useless, really unimportant. I've been asking God to give me some sense of purpose, And, suddenly I realized what an opportunity I've been given.

I can be a listener, an encourager. And, I hope as I grow bolder, I would remember that I can offer to pray with people. It might not seem like much. But, maybe this is my role right now.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Getting What We Deserve

One of the young men who murdered my son's sixth grade teacher last year finally faced sentencing this past week.  To avoid facing a trial where the death penalty would be pursued he accepted a plea bargain.  He pled guilty and was sentenced to life plus 20 years with no chance for appeals.  In other words, he will never get out of prison.

I hope that this begins to bring some closure and healing for Ms. Mathewson's family and friends.  She was loved by so many.  She was a woman of great faith and her love for God spilled over into how she related to others.  Although our local newspaper (sadly) didn't focus too much on this aspect of the hearing....many of her loved ones, when given the chance to speak directly to her killer, offered forgiveness, and spoke of God's love for him.

What a contrast that was to the comments left in reaction to the online article reporting his sentencing...

-"Why on earth does this country allow people to live if they plea guilty, so taxpayers have to pay for this scumbags crime by keeping him for life. I think with DNA evidence murderers should be killed within 48 hrs."
-"Killing him would have been letting him off easy, now he will sit in jail for the rest of his life wishing that he was dead."
-"I hope he gets a shiv in the back while in prison."
-"Why is his life being spared and the tax payers will pay for him for the rest of his pathetic life???? Thats why these scum bags do as they please to who ever they please, the justice system isnt fair and prisons are over crowded"
-"Death would have been too easy. Where he is going for the rest of his worthless life will be like hell on earth ."

These are the mild reactions.  There were comments made that I cannot repeat here.  People were angry.  I get that.  I'm angry too that they took the life of this precious woman who was so full of love and enthusiasm.  And, yet reading the hate filled comments didn't make me feel any better, it just made me feel sick.

There were a couple of her loved ones...those who had the most right to be angry...who tried to re-focus the discussion

* "I was proud to be a friend of Nicole today. Her life was honored by the testimony of her friends in the courtroom, offering forgiveness in place of justice. Grace in place of anger. Love in place of hate.
Everybody needs compassion

A love that's never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everybody needs forgiveness
A kindness of a Savior
The Hope of nations"

* " I completely understand the response of the public, and as a close friend of Nicole's I feel similar emotions. But she would not approve of this hatred. It was against the very core of who she was: overcome evil with good. Read the transcript of this hearing - and you'll see what an amazing person nicole was by hearing from her family and close friends. This is where the rubber meets the road for Christians - to show God's grace in the face of extreme evil.

Today I was more proud than I've ever been to be a Christian and see the love of Christ triumph over absolute evil."

But their voices were barely heard through the continued noise of voices hungry for retribution and blood.

I've noticed a trend on social media.  It's a trend of judgement.  There is no mercy.  People should get what they deserve and then some.

I think it's in our nature to react this way.  A sense of justice is good...of wanting wrongs to be righted and situations to be redeemed.  Yes, God is a God of justice.  But our sinful nature causes this desire for justice to cross over into hatred, anger, bitterness, and a thirst for revenge.

God is also a God of mercy and compassion.  Not just for those who are 'good'.  But, for the worst of the worst among us.  He does not desire that ANY should perish.  Yes, even for the men who killed an innocent woman in her own home...who tortured her & did unspeakable things to her.  He longs for them to turn away from the wickedness that has entered their souls and to seek Him.  He longs for them to come to Him in repentance.  He longs to bring even them into his arms as cherished sons.

If God's love and mercy was only big enough to cover what we consider minor infractions....if his forgiveness was big enough only to cover those things...what power were there be in that??  It would be feeble & frail.  It would be unworthy of any notice.

The fact that God's love and mercy is big enough to cover IT ALL is a reflection of the vastness of His capacity to forgive and compassion.  It is deep and wide.  It is unending.  THAT is a God worthy of our worship.

We took communion this Sunday at church...a time of remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made willingly for US.  He stood innocent before judgement and accepted our guilt, our sin, our filth.  It was UNFAIR.  It was UNJUST.  And as a result WE were the recipients of mercy and grace.

I thought to myself, "Thank God I didn't get what I deserved.  God knows I deserved punishment and shame."  And, as I looked at my family I felt so humbled.  I did NOTHING to deserve the good things that I have in my life.

I am not saying that it is easy to forgive.  In fact, on our own it is impossible. And,  I'm not saying that we don't have to face the earthly consequences of our actions.

But, what I am saying is that we serve a God who is so mighty, so good, so perfect that it is beyond our comprehension.  And, if we seek to honor him here on earth, if we believe that he took our sins to the cross, then that should change forever how we look at other human beings....even those who 'deserve' our disgust.

We should remember..always remember...that thanks to the Grace of God we ourselves did not get what we deserve.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Downton Abbey Episode 4 - Now We're Moving

So last week I commented that I felt this final season of Downton Abbey was really in slow gear and rather bland.  Well, last night Episode 4 aired & I feel like the story lines have amped up and now we're moving along.  Thank goodness!   My biggest fear as we finish out my favorite television series has been that it's just going to kind of stop with no real resolution or sense of closure.  It looks like there are 8 total episodes for this season.  We're at the halfway point and now I'm finally fully engaged.

Last night was one of those nights where I didn't want to miss anything.  There were so many lines spoken throughout the evening that carried weight, so many stories that took off running.  The sudden advancement in last night's episode seemed a lot like Daisy's near confrontation of Lady Cora.  It came storming out of the kitchen, tired of holding it's tongue, & ready to go to war......or so to speak.  Last night the writers had thrown off whatever sleepy fog they were in for the first three episodes and made stuff happen

In Daisy's case, she didn't actually have that confrontation.  Thank goodness Lord Grantham showed up just in the nick of time.  He naturally assumed Daisy was there because she'd already heard the good news that they were going to rent the farm to Mr. Mason.  It stopped Daisy in her tracks.  And she quickly scurried back down to the kitchen not sure to do with the misplaced righteous anger she'd had coursing through her veins.  Lady Cora said she felt as though she'd dodged something.  Oh, you did Cora.  You did.  And, so did Daisy!

But what really stood out to me last night was Thomas Barrow.  I know we are just talking about characters.  But, sometimes a character really touches us deeply nonetheless.  I think we all know a Thomas Barrow - someone who is so damaged by life that they lash out.  They've been wounded & they don't trust anyone and even when they feel a certain level of trust, they don't know how to reach out.  They don't know how to react to kindness.  And, they retreat into their bitterness and cynicism because it's safer there.

So my heart goes out to Thomas....not out of pity - because he can't stand pity....but out of compassion.  Last night was painful to watch for poor Thomas.  He got to briefly step into the role of butler during Carson & Mrs. Hughes' honeymoon.   This is the position he has longed for.  With it he had also expected to receive respect....because in truth he longs for that as well.  Rather, the staff just seemed to barely bear with him & bided their time until Carson returned.  If anything they seemed to take every opportunity to remind Thomas that this position was temporary & he was certainly not there because of any merit of his own.

There were so many heartbreaking moments with Thomas last night.  There was a brief conversation with Lord Grantham where Thomas indicated how much he had enjoyed his week in the role of the butler.  It would have been nice if Lord Grantham could have just been gracious and thanked Thomas for his hard work that week & stepping up to the plate.  Instead he basically told him he could never expect to reach the heights of Mr. Carson because Carson is a kind man & Thomas could learn a few things about kindness from him.  Except, while Carson is certainly a principled man and is a defender of propriety, I don't know that 'kindness' is always an accurate descriptor.  In fact, he's often quite unkind to Thomas. And then Lord Grantham basically confirmed Thomas's worse fear that his time at Downton Abbey is short and that it's best to continue searching for other employment.

There was also the scene with Thomas & Baxter talking outside.  I have a terrible memory & I should really write things down.  I don't recall the specifics of the conversation.  But, I remember Thomas telling Baxter that she's lucky because people actually like her.  She made some comment.  I forget the specifics.  But, she was downplaying herself.  Thomas told her she doesn't give herself enough credit.  This was the first part of this scene that touched me.  Thomas said something nice to someone else.  There was that period of time where Thomas was basically blackmailing Baxter & torturing her mentally.  Rather than allow this to make her bitter toward him, she has taken it upon herself to show Thomas kindness even when he rejects it outright.  She has slowly built up a trust with him.  And, he's still afraid to admit how much he appreciates the fact that she's the closest thing to a friend that he has.  So, the fact that he stepped out & said something to build her up was huge for Thomas.  She later said that she admired Thomas for not caring what people think of him. And this was the second part of the scene that just ripped my heart out as he turned away and said something to the effect of "You're wrong about that.  I do mind."  There Thomas goes opening his heart just a teensy tiny crack.

And, of course, at the end of the evening's episode Carson & Mrs. Hughes (as she will continue to be known because it was just too hard for everyone to remember to say Mrs. Carson now) return.  A welcome back party has been planned downstairs, and all the upstairs folks venture down to welcome them back...even the Dowager Countess who mentioned she hasn't been downstairs in at least 20 years.  Isobel quipped, "Do you have your passport?".  Oh, those two!  Anyway, all is back to the way it was.  And, Thomas recedes once again into the shadows.  In fact we see him standing back in the hallway observing the others...once again forgotten.

My other takeaway from this week's episode was that this seemed to be the week of "WWSD - What Would Sybil Do?"   We were reminded several times throughout the evening of Sybil's good nature & giving heart.  The biggest reminder was the return of Gwen, the former housemaid.  As a little aside - I have to say that there have been so many characters that have come & gone over the course of these past 6 years...often just appearing as a minor blip in the storyline....that when they return again I really don't remember who they are.  Apparently we were supposed to remember the man Edith ran into on the street as someone she had met before.  Although, I am like Edith.  I would have walked right past him never realizing our paths had crossed before.  And, the new race car driver/ possible new love interest for Mary has been seen before?  Apparently.  But, I couldn't begin to tell you in what context he first appeared.

Anyway, Gwen is now Mrs. Harding.  She and her husband work to raise funds for young women to achieve higher education who otherwise lack the  opportunity.  Gwen herself has done well.  She was a housemaid with higher aspirations.  With Miss Sybil's encouragement she took classes to become a secretary.  She went on to work in the secretarial field before marrying Mr. Harding, who to the best I can figure is high enough in the social structure to have the respect of the Granthams, but isn't quite as high bred as they are.

Gwen didn't realize that one of the stops she and her husband were making to try to rally support for their cause would be Downton.  She feels understandably awkward and doesn't immediately 'fess up to why Lady Mary would think she looks familiar.  "Have we met before?"  Lady Mary asks.  "No, we haven't officially met."  Gwen replies...which while it's technically true, it's stretching it a bit.

Thomas' cranky nature gets the best of him & he can't help buy 'out' her at their lunch.  It doesn't go as he imagined though.  And, instead everyone seems annoyed at him for trying to put her in an uncomfortable position and instead they ooh & ahh over her and seem genuinely glad to see her.  This is where we are reminded again that Miss Sybil did a great deal to mentor and encourage Gwen.

So is it any wonder that later that evening as everyone is gathered & the discussion of the farm & Mr. Mason comes up, the question "What would Sybil do?" helps them all find their moral compass.   Even Mary later notes her own moral failings in comparison to her dead sister.  Perhaps there is hope for cold hearted Mary yet if she's able to acknowledge that she is indeed cold.

Other notes from the evening:

 - The Dowager Countess seems to be fighting a losing battle.  Even when she brought in reinforcements to support her side of the hospital merger debate, it backfired.  She knows she's outnumbered.  And, at dinner it appeared that she could spit or cry....neither of which is appropriate.  So, she had a bit of a contained hissy fit.

 - Foreshadowing?  Lord Grantham continues to have shooting stomach pains.  Something is most definitely not right.  At one point Lord Grantham & Lady Cora are talking about his mother & how upset she is over the whole hospital issue.  And Lord Grantham worries it will be too much for her insinuating it could kill her.  Cora alludes to the seeming immortality of the stubborn Dowager and says something along the lines of "You never know.  She will probably bury you."  Ugh.  Is the series going to end with just that happening?  Will Lord Grantham die and be the final death stroke for the floundering estate?

 - Ok.  So Lady Mary referred to Tom Branson as her brother.  I guess she doesn't see him as a romantic interest.  But, she does seem intrigued by this car racing fellow.  And, he doesn't seem the least bit intimidated by Lady Mary....which of course appeals immensely to her.

 - Oh, & thankfully Anna told Bates the reason for her & Mary's midnight excursion.  Let's hope they have a bit of good luck now & that Anna's pregnancy is uneventful from this point on.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Recommendation - The Advocate

I am really drawn to biblical historical fiction. I have found a few authors who are quite talented at staying true to the biblical text while pulling in historical aspects and a compelling storyline.
Francine Rivers is one of those authors. Also, Bodie & Brock Thoene accomplished the same in their A.D. Chronicles.
I have another author to add to this list. His writing talent blew me away. Today I finished reading The Advocate by Randy Singer. This book takes place in ancient Rome. It begins right around the time of Jesus' execution. It is written mainly from the perspective of Theophilus. While we don't actually know who Thephilus was in real life (the addressee of the letters known as the books of Luke & Acts), Singer creates a believable and thoroughly engaging character.

In the book Theophilus is a young Roman nobleman of the equestrian class. He has trained extensively in both Roman and Greek philosophy. He is an intelligent man who is concerned with justice and he becomes an assesore (much like an advisor) to Pontius Pilate. He later becomes an advocate (lawyer) who is drawn to defending cases of those who have been wrongly accused.
The first 2/3 of the book is written before Theophilus has any encounter with followers of The Way. He had a brief encounter with Jesus during his trial before Pilate and while it effects him profoundly he does not become a follower himself. This section of the book is filled with Roman political intrigue and vivid descriptions of Roman life. Trips to the Colosseum, and glimpses inside the lives of gladiators, along with descriptions of the Roman perception of the gods, their style of worship, and the role of vestal virgins help to establish who the Roman people were and how a Roman would think and behave.
The last third of the book picks up where Theophilus meets Paul while he is Caeser's prisoner. From there we witness his eventual conversion, and the bravery of the saints.
The end of this book literally moved me to tears. It was intense and deep. And, I definitely believe God's hand was on the writing. This book brought to life a period in time that is hard to imagine. You should absolutely read this book!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Downton Abbey...Final Season Blues

So Downton fans, what are your thoughts?  We are 3 episodes into the final season and I have to say it's feeling a little....bland.  It just seems to be trudging dutifully along but it's lacking its usual luster.   We have only a few more episodes to bring us to a satisfying closure for all of our beloved characters and, as it's going now, it feels like it's just going to end with no real denouement.

What of our favorite villain that we love to hate & still have been rooting for his good side to prevail?  Even Barrow seems to have lost his teeth.  He's just sort of been moping about through these first three episodes convinced he's going to be sacked & halfheartedly searching for alternate employment.  Come on Barrow.  You are one character I always count on to infuse some menacing quality to the story line.  But, most of all, I'd love to see you have a character transformation.  There's a hero buried under that cranky, nefarious surface.  Let us see it!

Carson & Mrs. Hughes have finally tied the knot.  After all the hubub over where the reception should be held, and then the COAT incident (more about that next) you would have thought the wedding & reception scenes themselves would have received a little more time rather than being a bit of an afterthought crammed into the last few minutes of the episode.  And then Tom & Sybie totally stole any remaining thunder by showing up unexpectedly.

Don't get me wrong.  That was the first thing that happened this season that has really caught my attention.  First of all, I just love Tom.  I'm really hoping they give him a story line.  Actually, as much as Mary annoys me I think she just lights up when she sees Tom.  Maybe we can have a romance?  Or would it be weird for her to marry her dead sister's husband and for cousins George & Sybie to grow up as siblings?  Eh.  Weird shmeird.  This is Downton Abbey.  They can make anything happen.  After all, we hardly remember Tom as chauffeur.

Ok.  Back to the coat incident.  Cora!  I didn't realize you had that nastiness simmering under the surface.  Honestly, I could just feel the humiliation of poor Anna, Mrs. Patmore, & especially Mrs.  Hughes.  Even though Cora came downstairs and made it right I imagine that would still hang over Mrs. Hughes head like a cloud.  Poor Mrs. Hughes would never and had never in her 30 years of loyal employment presume to go into her ladyship's closet & try on her coats.  But, good ole' Mary insisted she do this and that it was all ok.  It was their wedding surprise to Mrs. Hughes.  But, oopsie, she didn't get around to talking to her mum.  She halfheartedly tried to get her attention as she was leaving the library.  Why not get up off your bottom & go tell her Mary????  Anyway, the explanation Cora offered for her show of anger toward her loyal servants when discovering them in her room was that she was tired, had a headache, & was still brewing over her earlier confrontation about the hospital.  Still, it was a painful scene to watch

Edith finally told her blowhard editor to take a walk.  Thank goodness!  And who was that secretary?  She could be an interesting character.  Why not have Edith become her own editor & have that plucky secretary as her sidekick?  The two of them can run the magazine themselves.  But, just when I thought they were going that direction, that guy shows up and comes in to help them and the secretary becomes a background figure again.  Boo.  It would have been so much more interesting to see the two women work together to beat the deadline and forge an unlikely friendship across class lines. Changing times and all. But, I suppose we have to come up with a quick love interest for Lady Edith if she's to have found love by the end of the series.  And so Mr. What's His Name.

The theme of the whole show seems to be the changing times....the struggle of estates to stay afloat, reality setting in that it's not going back to the way it was, those pesky servants demanding to be thought of as human beings with rights, dreams, & hopes of their own.  And, then, there's my favorite....Lady Grantham and her nemesis Mrs. Crawley.  I have to say.  I sympathize a bit with Lady Grantham.  I'm not a fan of change myself.  And, here she is desperately trying to hold on to one thing she still has some bit of control over...the hospital.  But, she's outnumbered & I don't think she's going to win this fight.

At any rate, this season so far has left me feeling a bit deflated.  Maybe it's just because I know it's coming to an end.  There's no more time for dilly dallying.  Each episode counts.  Perhaps the pace will pick up because I absolutely refuse to come away disappointed.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Be Still

I've been doing more paper & pen journaling lately.  Really that is my first love.  I've kept a journal of some sort or another since I was about 12.  Sometimes I write passionately and frequently.  Other times there are long lulls....years even.

But, as I've been seeking God, I've found that writing down the things that he impresses on my heart is a huge help in remembering and applying what he has for me.

As I sat down this afternoon to spend a few minutes alone with God, I decided to go back & read some old journal entries.  This is something I do fairly often.  I often see what I wrote with fresh eyes and often it speaks to me in new ways.

I came across this entry from October of last year....only a few months ago.  And, it resonated with me today.  I thought I'd share it with you.

10-27-15      Be Still

I am impatient.  I know this about myself.  It's funny that my impatience even extends to wanting to hear God speak.  Sometimes I open my notebook and words just seem to flow from the Spirit.  And, I feel like I'm hearing the voice of God.

Other times I sit here waiting and there's silence.  I'm like, "Here I am God.  My notebook is open.  I'm ready to hear you."   And then I get impatient if I don't hear anything right away.

"Be still".  That command is in Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted on the earth".

It's interesting how that line that is so famous - that seems to indicate rest for us - is followed by the promise of God's glory, that He will be exalted.  We are reminded of His sovereignty through it all.

But, it's so hard to be still sometimes.

There's another place where stillness is mentioned.  Zechariah 2:13 says "Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling."

There's this sense that when we are still God is on the move.

Anyway, as I sit here with my notebook open - hoping for profound words of encouragement or enlightenment I'm reminded that sometimes the most powerful thing is to be still and to wait.
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